Conquer the College Essay

Young student writting an essay

When it comes time to apply for college, there are many parts to the application process. Today I want to focus on one major component, the College Essay. Writing the essay might seem a daunting task, but follow these guidelines, and you can give yourself a leg up in the admissions process.

What is a College Essay?

The College Essay is sometimes called a personal statement. It is your opportunity to tell the admissions committee about yourself and make a compelling statement for why you are a good fit for their college. It is often the first or last piece of your packet the committee will see, so it is very important to make a good impression.

What Goes in the Essay?

An effective essay will give the committee a good idea of what kind of person you are. Make sure your essay in interesting, easy to read, and is written in your own words. Avoid trying to sound smart or funny (unless you really are smart or funny). Your writing will be strongest if you allow yourself to be real.

Unless the college application specifies, there typically are no rules for the content of your essay. However, there are some basic guidelines I recommend:

  1. The most important thing to remember is to tell your OWN story. Don’t worry about what your friends are writing. Their stories are different from yours, and you need to focus on telling something uniquely personal.
  2. Write about something SPECIFIC. Try to remember a distinct conversation you had with someone, or a particular event you attended. Maybe there was a single day in your life that stands out. Or a particular challenge you had to overcome.
  3. Think about what you LEARNED from that specific event. How did that change or shape you? Did it make you a better person? Colleges love to hear that you encountered something difficult and learned a valuable lesson from it.

How Long is the Essay?

A good essay will be around 2 pages, double-spaced. The committee must read thousands of essays, so you want to make it easy on them. Every word should count. If you find that you are rambling, then stop and take a break. A good essay will take several revisions until it is complete, so don’t try to rush through it.

It’s natural to get frustrated during this process. If you find that you are stuck, try following the above guidelines to get you back on track. And remember, you know yourself better than anyone. Have fun and don’t be afraid to open up!